The upcoming football season is one of opportunity for numerous players on Greenwich, which graduated a wealth of talent from last season’s championship squad.
It’s also an opportunity for a coach who has been around the Cardinals’ program for quite some time.
The Cardinals will display their new-look team in its season-opener against visiting FCIAC foe Danbury on Saturday, which marks Anthony Morello’s head coaching debut for his alma mater.
“I always had a dream of coaching in the FCIAC somewhere, now I am coaching with my alma mater,” Morello said. “It feels a little different being the head coach, but I’ve been through many seasons of coaching.”
Morello was hired as coach after John Marinelli resigned in June following four successful seasons at the helm, the last of which concluded with Greenwich winning the CIAC Class LL championship. Hired in July, Morello, 32, takes over a program with a winning tradition and a championship pedigree. Like the 2018 team, this year’s Cardinals roster includes more than 100 players. Many players, however, will have increased roles from last season.
“For us to have as many kids as we have — we feel blessed,” said Morello, who served as the varsity team’s running game coordinator for Marinelli last season. “I went from having 20 offensive linemen in my previous role all season long, to having almost 200 kids in the program. If they are all getting better every day, then I am doing my job.”
Most of Greenwich’s five senior captains play at different positions. Jack Warren and Spencer Hartley are running backs, Callum Abernethy leads the offensive line, while Eddy Iuteri (defensive tackle) and Evan Weigold (linebacker) anchor the defense.
“We can’t wait for the season to start and to get going,” Hartley said. “We lost a lot of players from last season, but we have a lot of depth and those spots are being filled. We want to see how we can do without the seniors we had last year.”
Indeed opportunities are plentiful on this team, which needs several players at each position to step up and embrace their challenges.
“I think we’re getting better each and every day,” Abernethy said. “Every day we’re slowly improving and we have a really young group of guys fighting for positions. Everyone has been competing to win a job and we’re going to show that we have a lot of guys who can rise to the occasion and play their position well.”
AT THE HELM: Morello, a 2005 graduate, coached Greenwich’s freshman football team from 2012-2014, leading the squad to a pair of undefeated seasons. Marinelli tabbed Morello as offensive line coach in 2015 and in 2017 Morello was named the varsity team’s running game coordinator. He played football at GHS under coach Rich Albonizio, competing on a Cardinals team that played in the Class LL semifinals in 2003 and 2004. As a member of the Union College football team, Morello earned All-American honors as an offensive tackle and was chosen as Union’s Offensive MVP in 2017.
Under Marinelli’s four-year tenure, the Cards posted a 36-10 record, including two appearances in the Class LL Tournament final. They registered a 34-0 win over rival New Canaan in the 2018 Class LL final.
WHO’S GONE?: Some of the standouts from the 2018 Class LL and FICAC title-winning team included: Mozi Bici, DE (postgraduate year at Suffield Academy); Gavin Muir, QB (Dartmouth); Lance Large, WR, (John’s Hopkins); Stephen Bennett, WR; Charlie Ducret, WR/DB, (Trinity College); Jack Feda, LB; Emilio Camou, DE, (Union College); Nick Veronis, DB; Ryan Raybuck, CB, (St. Anselm); Tysen Comizio, RB, (UPenn); Joe Kraninger, OL/DL; Tyler Dietrich, OL; Nolan Connerty, OL, (Dickinson College); Hunter Cusimano, CB, (Villanova); Jacob Belmont, OL, (Salve Regina); Christopher Wint, WR/DB, (Castleton University), Larry DeLuca, LB and Toby Turnbull, K/P (Stonehill College).
OFFENSE: Junior James Rinello took a lot of repetitions with the starting team during the preseason at quarterback — a position led by Muir the past two seasons. Muir passed for 2,474 yards and 31 touchdowns last fall. Cage Lasley, a junior, and Carson Bylciw, are among the Cards’ signal callers.
Running back is a position of depth and strength. Warren gained 174 yards, despite missing half of last season with an injury, Hartley rushed for 214 yards and junior Hunter Clark totaled 261 yards on the ground in 2018.
“We have a lot of guys in this group and we feel like we can’t go wrong there,” Warren said. “There is a lot of depth, so our running game can be really good.”
Returning at wide receiver is junior AJ Barber, who turned in a sensational sophomore season. One of the Cardinals’ leading receivers, Barber caught 31 passes for 446 yards with 10 touchdowns a year ago, and helped spark the squad to its championship win against New Canaan. Kobe Comizio, a junior, could help lead the receiving corps, along with senior Matthew Pilc and Chason Barber. The team is also expecting big things from junior tight end Will Montesi.
Abernethy leads an inexperienced offensive line.
“Callum has been leading the way, he’s our only returning starter,” Morello said. “We have guys who have taken varsity reps, but it’s a young position for us. The kids have been in the system though and they are learning quickly.”
DEFENSE: Iuteri registered 54 tackles and four sacks from his defensive tackle position in 2018 and Weigold amassed 71 tackles with nine sacks at linebacker. Montesi will see action on the defensive line, while Vincent Ceci and TJ Abbazia, both of whom are juniors, will be looked upon to help solidy the defense at linebacker.
“Part of my job on this team is to look after the linebackers,” Weigold said. “So far, it’s been good. TJ and Vinny are handling the running game well and are getting used to the coverages.”
Comizio and junior Hugo Mark are among some of the defensive backs the Cards are relying on. Greenwich’s defense posted five shutouts last season and allowed only 54 points all year.
“We are complemented well at each position and ready to go,” Iuteri said. “Our team is still hungry. Winning the championship last season gives us something else to go for this year. We want to win it again and we know what we need to do to get there.”
SCHEDULE: Danbury, Sept. 14, home; Trumbull, Sept. 20, away; Norwalk, Sept. 27, home; Bridgeport Central, Oct. 5, away; Westhill, Oct. 12, home, 3 p.m.; Darien, Oct. 12, home, 4 p.m.; Trinity/Wright Tech, Nov. 2, away; Fairfield Ludlowe, Nov. 8, away; Staples, Nov. 28, away